Danny Zhuang, Metea Valley High School

Danny Zhuang readily admits he didn't get straight As in junior high school."It was a developing time," explains Zhuang, of Aurora, who used the Bs in junior high to push himself toward excellence at Metea Valley High School.The strategy worked: Zhuang is set to graduate with a 4.75 GPA on a scale of 4.0. He is a National Merit Finalist, a National AP Scholar and has been accepted to Harvard University, where he plans to study economics in the fall.Those who know the 18-year-old say it's typical to hear him downplay his accomplishments."Even though we all know he is brilliant, he is very committed ... he is so down to earth," said Amanda Pyzik, his guidance counselor at Metea Valley.The middle child of Peng Wang, a project manager at a telecommunications company, and Qingyu Zhuang, a computer engineer, Zhuang began writing his own computer programs in the fifth grade.At age 17, he surprised managers at the foreign exchange department of Bank of Montreal Capital Markets when he e-mailed to offer his programming services. But after meeting Zhuang, directors at the company hired him for a full-time internship last summer. They continue to use his services 20 hours per week during the school year.Despite his computer skills, Zhuang, who also played varsity soccer, competed on the speech team, and teaches piano lessons to a student with autism, said he plans to keep an open mind to many career possibilities."It's going to be even more exploring" in college, said Zhuang. "I don't want to stay in one place."-- Vikki Ortiz Healy
Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune
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